Viral Marketing, Smellvertising, 3D Billboards, and YOU

The way we interact has changed —pure and simple. Human interconnectivity has been redefined in recent years with the continued advancement of mobile technology and the popularization of social network involvement. We’re online all the time and we’re always on the lookout for something new and different. When we don’t get it instantly, we move right along, fun and fancy free.

The emphasis on instant gratification makes it a bit tough for almost any modern business to reach us effectively when they have a product, service or idea to offer. We’ve got the attention spans of inbred goldfish and almost nothing seems to stick anymore. But I’m starting think that keeping the advertising departments on their toes is just what’s needed these days. It seems like the arena of modern marketing—viral marketing in particular—is becoming quite the innovative landscape.

I’m not sure if it’s due to the the growing network of technological tools in our cultural arsenal or to the outlandish efforts on the part of advertisers to reach our attention and our wallets, but there are some rather nifty promotional practices going on these days.

Just last month, an online promotion to raise awareness for breast cancer was initiated on Facebook and went viral after only a short time. It relied on the use of a recurrent meme, and the campaign—ultimately dubbed I Like It On…—saw thousands of women updating their statuses to read something along the lines of “I like it on the floor,” or “I like it on the table,” or “I like it in the kitchen,” and so on. But the statuses weren’t just referring to unique places women like to “make whoopee.” Rather, they were referencing where they prefer to leave their purses. So, the campaign ultimately relied on innuendo to generate a significant amount of online buzz. It was talked about, it was debated, it was a tad bit controversial (entrusting its effectiveness to sexual connotation rather than facts about the cause), but for all intents and purposes, it was a marketing success!

Several of the newest billboard ads popping up in the U.S. and abroad are interesting as well. The effort is obviously to use more invasive design strategies in order to get passersby to pay more attention. Paramount Pictures recently promoted the critically-acclaimed cinematic masterpiece Jackass 3D by putting up “3D billboards” in select cities. Large ramps were set up adjacent to road-side billboard signs, plastered to which were mannequin motorcyclists meant to look as if they had crashed head-on into the billboard and were stuck there. A billboard with a little more depth and an interactive feel is certainly a better idea than a flat, static advertisement.

Bloom's Steak-Scented Billboard
Bloom’s steak-scented billboard

But, better still is a billboard that recently popped up in North Carolina for a grocery store chain called Bloom. A replica of a giant fork appears to hold the billboard up, and showcased on the sign is a picture of an absolutely mouthwatering morsel of a steak, held aloft by the fork. (The picture on the left is courtesy of an article by Store Brands Decisions). The best part: this nifty roadside ad actually pumps a beef scent into the air around lunchtime and in the early evening just to get drivers hungry. That’s right, “smellvertising” is here!

More and more, we’re starting to see these and other attention-grabbing techniques; some are in the form of viral campaigns (many of which include wacky giveaways and contests) and others just off-the-wall ideas that may or may not catch on. I guess my two cents is that it ultimately makes sense for promotional campaigns to be structured around evermore progressive business models. Models that incorporate more than just the tried and true methods. It’s this kind of forward-thinking that I like to read and hear about these days!